For six years the boy and the girl held hands as they walked home from primary school; at first with their mothers, then eventually as a pair.

Every day they would stop and tickle the ginger cat that patrolled the nearby alley; skim stones along the river; run past the play park where the local bullies hung out and sit together on the hilltop bench that overlooked their separate streets, before waving goodbye.

In their final week, before breaking up for the summer and preparing to start different secondary schools to each other, the boy didn’t turn up; leaving the girl to walk home alone.

On the Monday the girl saw the ginger cat get hit and killed by a car. On the Tuesday the girl slipped on the river bank and fell into the water. On the Wednesday the girl was dragged into the play park and punched and kicked by the local bullies. On the Thursday a rain cloud opened above the hilltop bench, waving goodbye to what little happiness remained inside the girl.

On the Friday the boy turned up.

“Where on Earth have you been?!” cried the girl, bedraggled and betrayed. She looked at his wrists to see they were covered in soft, white bandages. “What have you done?” she snapped.

“I chopped my hands off,” the boy said. “I couldn’t bear to wave goodbye to you today.”

The girl smiled and wiped the tears from her eyes. She hooked her arm around what was left of the boy’s and said: “I guess I’ll just have to settle for a farewell stroll.”

© Carl Burkitt 2013

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